On the sixth anniversary of Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickrematunge‘s death, Sri Lanka goes to the polls to decide if President Mahinda Rajapaksa on whose watch his brutal murder was committed, will get a third term in presidential office.
In a strange twist of fate President Rajapaksa himself chose January 8th 2015 as the date to seek re-election. Eight is supposed to be the incumbent’s lucky number. Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya declared he could not call elections before January 7. With the Pope’s visit scheduled for January 13th the President’s lucky number cropped up conveniently in between.
It did not take long for activists and loved ones to realise what President Rajapaksa had done.
January 8 was not only the day Lasantha had been murdered on his way to work. It also happened to be the birthday of SLFP Founder S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike. In a strangely poetic twist President Rajapaksa would face a challenger who was claiming to fight to win back SWRD’s party from the clutches of the Rajapaksa family who had wrested control of the party and had set about destroying it and undermining it for nine long years.
Colombo Telegraph learns that apart from 20 MPs in the Government camp all other ruing party MPs want Rajapaksa defeated in today’s election.
Bradman Weerakoon providing a glimpse of campaigning from a village in Kalutara has marvelled at the phenomenon of SLFP grassroots members and UNP grassroots members working together in the area.
With the SLFP machinery paralysed by hundreds of defections at pradeshiya sabha and urban council level the Rajapaksa campaign largely relied on public servants to carry out campaign activity. He could no longer trust his SLFP membership to work for him on the ground.
This resulted in well organised rallies and good choreography but very little canvassing at the local level.
Today hundreds of Lasantha’s close friends, family former colleagues will be catalysed by his death to vote against the administration that protected his killers for six years.
Today, thousands of Freedom Party members with their minds of their Party Founder may seek to vote against the man who caused his party to fracture through the middle.
Sometime in this election season the Rajapaksa administration lost the police and the judiciary that showed a resurgence of independent spirit in the last week of the campaign. The President’s janapathi janahamuwa interview was blocked across three television networks by a district court and attempts to overturn the suspension order yesterday failed – twice in two separate courts.
The death of Shantha Dodangoda, the opposition campaigner who was shot while constructing a stage for Maithripala Sirisena’s rally in Kahawatte last week has also counted against the regime. Once again a ruling party member – a deputy minister no less – is implicated in the murder and is evading arrest. The first death of the 2015 presidential election campaign is emblematic of the impunity and brutality of the incumbent regime.